Barbados joins push to raise regional coconut profile

Transporting coconuts in the Pomeroon River

Guyana is by no means the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country that is gearing itself to cash in on the current high global demand for coconuts. Earlier this week Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) representative on the island Ena Harvey was quoted in the Barbados Advocate’s Business Monday as saying that the country has the potential to expand its coconut industry and to transform it into a thriving agri -business operation.

The Bajan coconut industry, according to the IICA official, is growing steadily, already having grown to a level where a number of young men have set up viable operations. With local demand for coconut water on the island seemingly growing,  Harvey is reporting that a new coconut vendor is emerging in Barbados every day, a development which she said is worthy of note. Young men, she is quoted as saying are transforming coconut water vending into big business.

With the demand for coconut and its by-products now driven by the health-related benefits linked to the tropical fruit, Barbados is one of a number of CARICOM countries positioned to benefit from a seven-nation project funded by the Geneva-based International Trade Corporation (ITC) and managed by CARDI which has set out a roadmap for coconut development in the beneficiary countries.

“Over the last few months the Ministry of Agriculture (in Barbados) has been working to look at bringing in clean tissue cultured material, and plants to improve our production of coconuts,” as part of a broader initiative that envisages “better varieties, higher yielding varieties to improve our production of coconuts, to produce not only coconuts for drinking but also dried coconuts for baking,” the IICA official is quoted as saying.

Guyana, with its large land mass and strong agricultural tradition is also undertaking the revival of a coconut industry which, up until recently, had been largely neglected with businessmen in the Pomeroon and elsewhere in Region Two already undertaking significant investments in both starting and reviving large-scale coconut production. While these initiatives are targeting regional markets in the first instance, intra-regional food safety issues arising out of tests conducted in Trinidad and Tobago on coconut water exported from Guyana would have to be sorted out quickly if the trade is to grow. Meanwhile, at local fairs and exhibitions, the growing popularity of coconut water is manifested in the increasing presence of coconut vending at these events.

While Barbados, according to the Business Advocate is actively contemplating the manufacture of “a whole new set of products” from coconut, Guyana still appears to be focusing on the creation of an administrative structure to manage the industry. Traditionally, the popular by – products of coconut created in Guyana have included items of craft and costume jewelry though an absence of strong technological support for the craft and creative sectors here have placed limits on the range of coconut by-products produced here. Guyana also has a tradition for widespread use of coconut in the food sector, though setting aside its use in the highly popular cook-up-rice and sugar cake, a popular coconut-based confectionary, the range of food products deriving from coconut remains limited.

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